Eyesight and Driving

All drivers are responsible for their own safety, the safety of their passengers and certainly the safety of everyone else on the street. Part of this responsibility is our ability to see clearly. 85-95% of the things we comprehend during driving comes from our visual perception. Poor vision equals bad driving.

How important is good eyesight for safe driving?

In recent years, more and more people can drive and own a vehicle. It is a fact that the use of a private means of transportation offers a sense of independence, despite the disadvantages from increased traffic. Furthermore, in many cases, using a car has proven to be lifesaving. However, as the number of cars and consequently of drivers increases, so do traffic accidents.

Most countries, promoting common good and aiming to reduce the number of traffic accidents, have imposed specific limitations, among other measures, to the rights of people with certain conditions to drive (e.g. a person with reduced reflexes cannot safely drive and is considered a dangerous driver). Good eyesight is among the most important parameters of safe driving. Eye disorders, if left untreated, may frequently limit the driver’s abilities.

A study on traffic accidents comparing drivers with eye disorders with drivers who did not have any limitations has shown that the more serious the eye disorder of the driver who got involved in an accident (classification in a low-medium-high scale), the greater was the percentage of their involvement in accidents caused by their fault.

How can our eyesight improve to achieve better safety during driving?

The solution to this problem lies firstly in informing these people in the most complete possible way about their condition and secondly in the ability to treat their eye disorder. We should stress that in recent years there have been major technological advances in the field of Ophthalmology, such as the successful correction of high myopia, astigmatism and hyperopia with the use of Laser in Refractive Surgery, as well as the treatment of cataract with the application of new microsurgical techniques. With proper information and the successful treatment of eye disorders, driving can be safe for both the driver and everyone around them.

Did you know that…

Between the ages of 40 and the 60 eyesight deteriorates, especially during night time, as the ocular muscles lose their elasticity and the pupil becomes larger. A 60-year-old driver needs 10 times more light than a 20-year-old!! The older we are, the more susceptible we are to “blurring” caused by lights, which makes driving at night even harder. A 55-year-old needs 8 times more time than a 16-year-old for their vision to be restored after looking at intense light!

After 55, our optic system weaknesses increase. We do not perceive immobile street objects as well as we did, such as pedestrians waiting to cross the street.

Around the age of 70, when peripheral vision is showing problems, the number of traffic accidents increases. Keep in mind that 95% of a driver’s visual capacity depends on peripheral vision.

As years go by, colors lose their brightness and the ability of “aged eyes” to see the colors of traffic lights is reduced by half.

Depth perception, i.e. how far or near our vehicle is in relation to an object that is in front of us, is another eye-related parameter that is limited as we age. This is very important in evaluating the speed with which another car is moving when trying to pass us or turn left.

Cataract, glaucoma and diabetes are conditions which affect vision, so any drivers suffering from them need to consult their ophthalmologist.

Useful tips for safe driving

Make sure to turn on the lights both in the early hours of the night and in fog as during these times it is more difficult to see and be seen. If possible, avoid driving at sunrise and at sunset, as the “glare” is more intense (it may even be blinding) and consequently it is more difficult to see details on the road. Despite all that, if you do drive during these hours make sure to maintain a safe distance from the vehicle in front and take extra precautions. Drive at a slower speed at night.

You should always wear your prescribed corrective glasses or contact lenses and, if you are still having trouble driving at night, make sure to consult your ophthalmologist.

Try to avoid night driving on unfamiliar roads or on badly-lit roads. Older drivers need more light to see well and should avoid driving at night.

During the day, make sure to wear sunglasses while driving, so that your eyes can more easily adjust from light to darkness.

It is very important to make sure that your headlights are well adjusted offering adequate lighting without blinding other drivers. You should visit your ophthalmologist at least once a year for a full eye evaluation to be certain that you meet the requirements for safe driving.

Finally, keep in mind: Your ophthalmologist is the best source for responsible information on issues that are related to the health of your eyes. Under no circumstances is the information available on our website intended to replace your doctor. Always contact your doctor for information.